Jerusalem (Jun. 15)
Labor Party leaders accused Likud today of deliberately inciting violence at Labor election rallies to frighten people away from them. Two of the worst incidents occurred last night. In Petach Tikva, a mob of youths shouting “Begin, Begin,” disrupted a rally for Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres, set fire to garbage cans and hurled rocks through the windows of the local branch of Mapam, Labor’s Alignment partner.
In Ashkelon, a rally for Laborite Abba Eban was the target of similar rowdyism and the speaker had to call for police protection.
At a press conference, Peres declared that he “no longer regards the Cabinet as Israel’s government but as the election campaign headquarters of Likud.” He was referring to a statement released after last Sunday’s Cabinet meeting alleging that Labor criticism of Israel’s air attack on an Iraqi nuclear reactor June 7 had encouraged other countries to condemn Israel. Peres also accused Begin of inspiring the violent outbursts that have occurred with increasing frequency at Labor Party rallies.
“Begin is mistaken if he thinks he can frighten us,” Peres said. He referred to Likud’s tactics as “Khomeinism” and “personality cult” and charged that Likud was “trying to create an atmosphere wherein if you don’t chant ‘Begin, Begin’ you are almost a subversive element.” He charged that anti-Labor rabble rousers were bussed in by Likud and were paid to disrupt Labor meetings.
At a press conference of his own later, Begin flatly rejected the charges. Justice Minister Moshe Nissim who head’s Likud’s campaign information headquarters said his party “utterly condemns” violence of any kind. Nevertheless, Begin issued a call to all Likud members and supporters to refrain from violent disturbances at the election rallies of all parties.